I know the term "best" is subjective, but after experimenting with different methods for making Oyako Donburi for over a dozen years, I can confidently say this is the best Oyakodon recipe for most people. That's because it recreates the tastes and textures of Oyakodon from high-end restaurants in Japan using chicken and eggs that you can buy in any country.
In Japan, a great Oyakodon, such as one that might be served at a yakitori restaurant, is made with high-quality Japanese chicken cooked medium rare with silky eggs that are close to raw. I've posted a recipe for a more traditional Oyakodon in the past, but in most places, chicken and eggs should be cooked to a higher temperature, which tends to render the chicken tough and dry and the egg spongy.
For this Oyakodon recipe, I've employed a few culinary tricks to infuse the chicken with loads of flavor while ensuring it stays tender and juicy. The sauce is slightly thickened, giving it a velvety texture that keeps the eggs smooth and creamy even when fully cooked.
Why This Recipe Works?
- Marinating the chicken with soy sauce, sake, and ginger season it to the core.
- Proteolytic enzymes in the ginger tenderize the chicken.
- The starch coating on the chicken's exterior helps it retain its juices, ensuring it stays plump and juicy when cooked to a safe temperature.
- The starch on the chicken also helps thicken the Oyakodon sauce, giving the egg a rich and creamy texture, even when fully cooked.
- Chicken - I love using flavorful boneless chicken thighs for most dishes, and Oyakodon is no exception. Usually, I'd recommend using skin-on thighs, but because the layer of starch on the outside prevents the skin from rending out much fat, I recommend using skinless chicken. I also generally don't recommend using chicken breasts because they dry out so quickly, but with this recipe, you could get away with breast meat; it just won't be as flavorful as using thighs.
- Soy sauce - Soy sauce is the primary seasoning for this dish, and using it in both the marinade and the sauce ensures that both the chicken and egg are perfectly seasoned. Tamari is a good gluten-free alternative.
- Sake - Sake adds umami to the chicken, and you can read more about using sake for cooking. If you can't find it, mirin will work, or you can substitute water with a pinch of MSG.
- Ginger - Ginger covers up any gamey notes from the chicken while enzymes such as zingibain break down the connective tissue in the chicken, making it more tender.
- Potato starch - This humble ingredient serves two essential purposes in our Oyakodon recipe. The first is that the coating helps the chicken retain moisture, keeping it tender and juicy. The second benefit is that the coating partially dissolves in the sauce, giving it a thickness and body that meld with the egg to keep it velvety smooth and creamy.
- Onion - Thinly sliced onions bring a natural sweetness to Oyako Donburi, and it's a part of every classic recipe.
- Dashi - This traditional stock forms the backbone of the Oyakodon sauce, providing a depth of umami and mildly smoky flavor that's hard to replace. That said, you could substitute a good chicken broth for the dashi in a pinch.
- Sugar – A small amount of sugar balances out the savory elements in this rice bowl. I usually use evaporated cane sugar, but other sweeteners like honey or brown sugar will work.
- Eggs - The silky counterpart to our juicy chicken, these meld with the sauce to create the rich, creamy texture of Oyakodon that's sublime over rice. Ideally, you want to find fresh eggs that are safe to eat partially cooked, but if you can't find any in your area, this recipe still works with the eggs fully cooked. I like using eggs with vibrant orange egg yolks, but this is not necessary and does not effect the taste. You can also top this with an extra raw egg yolk.
- Garnish - Mitsuba is a traditional Japanese herb that looks a bit like parsley but has a flavor closer to celery or carrots. You can substitute sliced scallions or chives if you can't find it. I also like to serve my Oyako Donburi with Shichimi Togarashi, a blend of seven spices that gives this rice bowl a kick of heat and aromatic flavors like yuzu and toasted sesame.
How to Make Oyakodon
The first thing you want to do is chop the chicken thighs into bite-sized pieces and marinate them with soy sauce, sake, and freshly grated ginger. This ensures that every bite is seasoned to its core and remains tender and juicy when cooked. Let this marinade work its magic for at least half an hour.
Once your chicken has marinated, it's time to introduce the next trick: potato starch. Add the starch to the marinated chicken and mix it well with your hand until there are no dry spots left and each piece of chicken is coated in an even layer of marinade and starch. This creates a protective barrier around the chicken that helps it hold onto its juices. It will also thicken our sauce as it cooks with the chicken.
To prep the eggs, just crack them into a bowl and give them a light mix. You want to aim for about 3-4 strokes. The whites and yolks should be swirled but not mixed.
Once your prep is done, heat a frying pan over medium heat and add vegetable oil and sliced onions. Stir fry until the onions begin to soften. Push them out to the edges of the pan, so you have room in the center.
Add the chicken and spread the pieces out in a single layer. Let the chicken brown on one side undisturbed (about 2 minutes), but stir the onions periodically to avoid burning. When the chicken has browned, flip them over and brown the second side.
When the chicken is mostly cooked, pour in the dashi stock, remaining soy sauce, and sugar to the pan and let the mixture simmer together until the chicken is fully cooked and the sauce starts to thicken (about another minute).
To finish off your Oyakodon, hold the bowl of beaten egg about a foot above the pan and slowly drizzle an even stream of egg around the pan. The height allows the egg to blossom into the dashi, creating silken tufts of egg impregnated with the flavorful sauce. Shake the pan to redistribute any uncooked egg, but resist the urge to stir.
Once the eggs are set to your liking, turn off the heat and spoon generous helpings of the chicken and egg mixture over bowls of hot rice to assemble your Oyako Donburi. Garnish with mitsuba for a refreshing herbal note and a sprinkle of shichimi togarashi for a pop of heat and flavor.
Serve it With
The beauty of Oyakodon is that it's a self-contained meal that doesn't need anything else, but if you want to turn it into something more, you can serve it with a bowl of miso soup and a plate of Japanese pickles. For side dishes, I'd recommend a refreshing cucumber sunomono as a palate cleanser that contrasts the rich flavors of the Oyakodon. Blanched spinach with ground sesame or goma-ae is another classic Japanese side that adds some more greens to this meal, and you could also go with a simple green salad dressed with my Japanese sesame dressing.
Oyako is a Japanese term where "oya" means parent and "ko" means child. Donburi is often shortened to "don" and refers to the large rice bowl it is served in. The name may be a bit morbid, but Oyakodon is the ultimate Japanese comfort food, with tender hunks of chicken draped with a creamy egg and dashi sauce all nestled on a steaming bed of rice.
Oyakodon is a 4-syllable name pronounced as follows (read the italicized parts).
o like order
ya like yacht
ko like cooperate
don like donut
Dashi has a unique flavor that's difficult to substitute, but chicken stock will work in a pinch.
- 200 grams skinless chicken thighs
- 2 teaspoons soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon sake
- ¼ teaspoon grated ginger
- 1 tablespoon potato starch
- Marinate 200 grams skinless chicken thighs with 2 teaspoons soy sauce, 1 teaspoon sake, and ¼ teaspoon grated ginger for at least 30 minutes.
- When you’re ready to cook the Oyako Donburi, add 1 tablespoon potato starch to the chicken and mix it in well.
- Break 3 large eggs into a bowl and beat 3-4 times until the egg whites and yolk are swirled but not mixed.
- Heat a frying pan over medium heat and add 2 teaspoons vegetable oil and 75 grams onion. Stir-fry until the onions start turning translucent and soft.
- Push the onions to the sides of the pan and add the chicken. Spread it into a single layer and fry on one side until browned (about 2 minutes).
- Flip the chicken over and brown the second side (about another 1 ½ minutes).
- Add ½ cup dashi stock, 1 tablespoon soy sauce, and 1 teaspoon sugar to the pan and simmer until the chicken is cooked through (another minute) and the sauce has thickened slightly.
- With the sauce at a full boil, drizzle the egg into the pan from 1 foot (30cm) above.
- Cook the egg while shaking the pan to redistribute, but do not stir.
- When the egg is done to your liking, turn off the heat and divide the Oyakodon sauce between 2 servings cooked Japanese short-grain rice. Garnish with Mitsuba and serve with Shichimi togarashi.